WYOMISSING, Pa. — After changing paths which led to four different colleges, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Beller found her home at Penn State Berks. She earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering during the college’s commencement ceremonies on May 8. For Beller, it was another stop on a long journey that allowed her to find herself along the way.
Beller, of Whitehall, Pennsylvania, began her academic career at Albright College, before transferring to Lehigh Carbon Community College, where she earned an associate degree in business and administration.
Burdened by student debt after graduation, Beller said she decided to take some time off to earn money before continuing her education. Her journey took her all the way to Australia, where she worked as an au pair. Then she returned to the States and went to work as a machine operator for Reeb Millwork in Bethlehem.
While working at Reeb, Beller got to know some of the company’s engineers and she found that she had a lot in common with them in terms of interests and thought processes. Soon she was inspired to begin working toward a baccalaureate degree, so she started taking night classes at Northampton County Community College while working during the day.
She decided that she wanted to pursue a degree in engineering and set her sights on Penn State Berks. “I realized that the only school I could drive to and earn a mechanical engineering degree was Penn State Berks,” she explained. “It took a lot of planning.”
She began by taking her general education courses at Penn State Lehigh Valley, she said, because the campus was closer to home and she could continue working at Swim-in Zone, a swim academy located near the campus that she credits with working around her class schedule.
Beller attributes her smooth transition and ability to graduate in three years to her faculty adviser, Rungun Nathan, associate professor of engineering and program chair of the mechanical engineering degree program at Penn State Berks.
During her junior year at Penn State Berks, Beller took a fall while rock-climbing, resulting in a broken bone in her foot. The experience sparked the idea to create a rope counter mechanism which would allow climbers to keep track of their rope more easily, and as a result, reduce the probability of falling. The mechanism included a LED screen and sensors to count the revolutions of the pulley.
Developing this mechanism became the focus of Beller’s senior capstone project, and she received the Jack and Stephanie Chapin Engineering Award for her work.
Beller stated that it was an elective course, microcomputer interfacing, with Dale Litwhiler, associate professor of engineering, that gave her the knowledge she needed to complete the project. She also worked with the Berks LaunchBox, an innovation hub of the college, where she used the 3D printers to create the parts for the device.
On campus, Beller was the president of the Society of Women Engineers student organization. Through the SWE, she had an opportunity to attend conferences, which she comments was key to her ability to network.
As part of the mechanical engineering degree program, Beller completed an internship at Lutron, an international supplier of lighting control products located in Cooperstown, where she worked in customer service and tech support. Then she attended a career fair at Penn State Berks, where she met with representatives from Rosenberger North America, a global leader in RF (radio frequency) technology. She was hired as an application engineering intern and worked with the environmental resource planning software. She ended her time there as a design engineering intern. She was also awarded an internship at Carpenter Technology Corporation, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The resources at Penn State Berks are there; you just have to use them,” states Beller. “If you put the effort in and try your best, things will work out.”
Beller already has a job lined up, which she found through Penn State’s Nittany Lion Careers network. Starting in July, she will be working for Saint Gobain as a rotational manufacturing engineer. She will complete one year of training at their Quakertown location and the second year at their Massachusetts site.
When asked how Penn State Berks has prepared her for the future, she said, “Penn State Berks gave me all the opportunities and experiences that I needed to step into the professional world. The mechanical engineering professors are amazing. They want you to learn and they make it known that they care about the students.”
She added, “I am thankful for everyone at Penn State Berks and everything they have done for me.”